As Artificial Intelligence (AI) advances, “soft” or “human” skills are becoming increasingly critical to success. A survey conducted by HR.com found that 45% of organizations provide inadequate learning and development efforts for their employees. No matter what an organization offers, there is a need to initiate learning and development on your own, especially when it comes to soft skills. Training is normally geared to the masses and not customized to meet your specific needs – one size does not fit all!
Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills
A combination of hard and soft skills is required to successfully perform and advance in most jobs.
Hard skills are measurable abilities related to specific technical knowledge and training. Examples include writing, reading, math, and the ability to use computer programs.
Soft skills are typically people-related skills such as leadership, creative thinking, teamwork, problem solving, communication, and time management.
When it comes to hiring, hard skills are at the top of the requirements list for many employers. They look for tangible skills and the experience needed to perform the job well, rather than the less measurable soft skills. An organization cannot be run with only hard-skilled or only soft-skilled employees; it is crucial to find harmony between the two.
Soft Skill Development
Even when a soft skill is not inborn, it can be learned through study, practice and application. Soft skills training can get employees to change their professional development mindset. Although soft skills have been historically challenging to teach, these skills are now recognized as being equally important as hard skills, and more training options are available than ever before.
Finding out which soft skills you naturally possess starts with looking within. Introspection and reflection aids in gaining self-awareness of your strengths and improvement opportunities. Things like showing empathy, expressing gratitude, communicating effectively, and managing stress are all essential skills to develop in order to advance your career and be an effective leader.
Identifying one’s soft skills isn’t necessarily something you have to do alone, either. Friends, colleagues, and even former employers may point out which soft skills come to mind when they think of you.
After identifying which characteristics you should cultivate, the next step is to look for ways you can improve some of the soft skills that might benefit you in your workplace. Some methods include:
- Self-reflection. In order to improve, you must first be honest with yourself about where your shortcomings are. This isn’t always easy. If you are struggling, ask a friend or family member to help you identify your true strengths and weaknesses.
- Online training. Once you have identified areas to improve, look for some online courses that will help you strengthen your skills in those areas and overcome your shortcomings.
- Observing others. Look to others who exemplify the soft skills you want to improve. If you have a relationship with them, ask them for advice or coaching.
- Practice. All skills improve with practice, including soft skills. Once you have obtained training or coaching, practice your new-found skills with friends or family. This will give you the confidence to take these skills into the workplace.
Don’t wait for your organization to fulfill your soft skills development needs. Start preparing for your career progression today by prioritizing the skills you need and finding ways to develop them yourself. Learn the skills that can help you grow both personally and professionally.